26th May-26th August 2018
Munch Museum on the Move-Kunsthall Oslo
Dronning Eufemias gate 34
In 1983–84, commissioned by the Bellman gallery, Pop artist Andy Warhol (1928–87) produced a series of 15 paintings with images taken directly from Edvard Munch’s best known lithographic prints. Warhol had long regarded Munch, alongside Henri Matisse, as one of his favourite artists, and he had visited Oslo in 1973 to view Munch’s works at the National Gallery and the Munch Museum. Like most of Warhol’s best-known works, these are copies which at the same time transform the sense and meaning of the originals. The paintings describe a transaction in which the famously superficial Warhol becomes a profound and important figure in the history of art, while Munch, tortured and brooding, is best known for the mass-culture icon that The Scream has become.
The subjects were The Scream, the portrait of Munch’s lover Eva Mudocci, and a double image of Madonna and the Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm. Warhol considered the Mudocci portrait to be ‘Munch’s Marilyn’, while the Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm is already echoed in the series of vanitas photographs and prints Warhol made in 1977-78 of himself holding a human skull; Warhol’s apparently emotionless consideration of the media portrayal of death in his Car Crash or Electric Chair works from the early 1960s had changed after he was shot and almost killed by Valerie Solanas in 1968. Warhol photographed and then re-drew all four images by hand, and the finished works are a combination of Munch’s images with Warhol’s version overprinted. For the most part, Warhol simply clarifies and emphasises Munch’s lines, but there is one exception. The eyes of the naked Madonna, which in Munch’s version are dreamily closed, are wide open and staring in horror.
The observation that Warhol made his own was that the subject of art in a mass-media culture could and should be the images which that culture creates. Beyond that, he understood that the world of mechanical, industrial reproduction in which he lived was profoundly different to the world which gave birth to the celebrated artists of the past. In 1961 he experimented with printing dollar bills on canvas. In 1962, after the actress Marilyn Monroe died, he made paintings filled with her silkscreened image repeated fifty times. In 1963, he silkscreened multiple copies of the Mona Lisa onto one canvas with the title Thirty Are Better Than One.
From 1963 until 1983, although he stole many, many photographs from the mass media, Warhol never appropriated another artist’s work. The series After Munch remains an exceptional part of Warhol’s production and we are very happy to be able to present such a comprehensive view of the series and the insights it offers into Warhol’s methods.
The exhibition includes three of the original fifteen paintings, several unique full-scale test prints, and screenprints from an unpublished edition of the same motifs. We will also screen Warhol’s film Kiss (1963), a fifty minute movie of couples kissing for 3 ½ minutes each.
Kunsthall Oslo-Munchmuseet on the Move is very grateful to Haugar Kunstmuseum and Sparebankstiftelse for the loan of the works which make up the major part of this exhibition, as well as to the private collectors which have also contributed.